Law of Torts

Absolute Liability

There are certain activities which are very dangerous that they constitute a constant threat to person and property. The law may handle such situations in two ways. The law might prohibit them altogether. It may ask them to carry on for the sake of society but only in accordance with statutory rules and provisions which lays down safety measures and provides for sanctions for non-compliance through the way of the doctrine of ‘Strict liability’. In this article, we will look at another concept of ‘Absolute Liability.

Absolute Liability


In the very beginning, some question arises in our mind like, what is Absolute Liability?  How is different from strict liability? There is a very direct and a straight answer to it.  Absolute liability is nothing but applying of Strict Liability but without any exceptions.

Now another question arises that why there is any need for this new doctrine or principle when there are many principles on liability. We can find out the answer from answering another question.

If an enterprise is doing some hazardous works or is a dangerous industry due to some accidents occurring there, people die or are getting injuries. What will be the measure of the liability for such an enterprise? In such a situation, should we apply the rule of Rylands V Fletcher? 

Is there any other principle or method to find out the liability? Or by applying the Principle of Strict liability in Ryland V Fletcher will help us to reach a suitable conclusion in the matters of mass injury taking place because of such industry?

In the 19th century, even when there was no development in the fields of science and technology, the rules in Rylands v. Fletcher came into being. Hence, it cannot afford any guidance in evolving any standard of liability consistent with the needs of the present economic structure.

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Conclusion From the Case of Rylands Vs Fletcher

According to the principle in Rylands V Fletcher, we can conclude that if any enterprise is envolving itself in any harmful or dangerous activity can harm anyone on account of an accident in performing of such fatal activities.

For example, in the escape of poisonous gas, the concerned enterprise will be surely and completely liable to all those who are affected by the accident. Such liabilities are not lead to any exceptions or exclusions which operate the principle of strict liability in Rylands V Fletcher.

Solved Question on Absolute Liability

Q. Is the concept of ‘Absolute Liability’ new?

Answer: In England, there is a rule that if anyone wants to keep a wild animal, one which is naturally very dangerous or a domestic animal which is famous for its unruly behavior then he is going to be liable for injuries done by the animal due to its behavior. The owner of a trespassing cow will be liable even if it is let out of the pasture by a trespassing third party giving rise to absolute liability with no exceptional cases.

This clearly shows that the concept of Absolute Liability was there since long but people could not differentiate between the Absolute Liability and Strict Liability in India. That is why Blackburn J was trying to give some examples of Absolute Liability but ended up giving no exceptional cases to Absolute Liability.

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